Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
After a traumatic event, it is typical to have feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, making it difficult to adjust or cope for some time afterwards. In particular, survivors of sexual violence may experience severe feelings of anxiety, stress, or fear, known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). While it is natural to have some of these symptoms after a traumatic event, if they last more than a few weeks and become an ongoing problem, it might be PTSD. If left untreated, the symptoms of PTSD can grow worse and last for months or even years.i
As classified by the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms of PTSD can be grouped into three main categoriesii:
This is a repeated reliving of the event, and interferes with daily activity. This category includes flashbacks, frightening thoughts, recurrent memories or dreams, and physical reactions to situations that remind you of the event.
These symptoms stem from the desire of a person to change their routine to escape similar situations to the trauma. Victims might avoid places, events, or objects that remind them of the experience. Emotions related to avoidance are numbness, guilt, and depression. Some have a decreased ability to feel certain emotions, like happiness. They also might be unable to remember major parts of the trauma, and feel that their future offers less possibilities than other people have.
Hyper-arousal symptoms are all physiological. They include difficulty concentrating or falling asleep; being easily startled; feeling tense, and ‘on edge’; and angry outbursts. These can sum up to make it difficult for victims of PTSD to complete normal daily tasks.
Children and teens may experience different symptoms from adults, which may includeiii:
- Inability to talk
- Acting out the assault during playtime
- Being unusually clingy with a parent or other trusted adult